Your Right to Know (PDF 4.4MB)
A person who requests information from a Scottish public authority which holds it is entitled to be given it by the authority
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, Section 1(1)
These pages provide information to help Scotland's elected representatives get the most out of freedom of information (FOI) law.
FOI provides a right to see the information held by Scotland's public authorities. Information that can help get hold of the facts and figures you need to represent your constituents.
You can use FOI to ask for information on a wide range of issues, from the cleanliness of hospitals to the cost and performances of the services provided by central or local government. The links on the left provide more information on using your right to know.
And your constituents can use FOI themselves. By telling local people about their rights to access information, you can help communities to make a real difference in their own lives.
We hope you'll be inspired by the videos and audio files, accessible from this page, which provide real-life examples where FOI has helped ordinary people to campaign on the issues that are important to them.
Your questions answered
Below you'll find answers to some of the questions that we are commonly asked by MSPs and councillors.
Are elected representatives subject to FOI law?
FOI law applies to Scottish public authorities (local authorities, the Scottish Parliament, etc), but not to their elected members as individuals. So elected members are not, therefore, required to respond to the information requests they receive in accordance with FOI law, and appeals cannot be made to the Commissioner in relation to such requests.
What should you do if you receive an information request?
While elected members aren't covered by FOI, the public may not always understand the distinction between elected members and their authorities. Where an elected member receives an information request that is intended for their authority, he or she should advise the requester to submit their request themselves directly to the authority.
It is well worth finding out the contact address for FOI requests for your authority so that this can easily be provided to requesters. More information for the public on requesting information is available at www.itspublicknowledge.info/yourrights
Is information about elected representatives accessible under FOI?
The public can request any information held by a Scottish public authority, including information about its elected members. Local and central government authorities regularly receive requests for information relevant to elected members - e.g. expense details, member/officer discussions about policy matters, or the background to decisions involving members.
The authority must decide whether to release the information or not and this will normally depend on whether it falls within the scope of an FOI exemption
. Where the authority is considering applying an exemption to information it may consult the views of relevant elected members.
Information which is only held by authorities on behalf of elected members and is not used by the authority for its own purposes will not, normally, be accessible.
Do Scottish Parliamentary Questions qualify as FOI requests?
Scottish Parliamentary Questions (SPQs) are not valid information requests for the purposes of FOI and cannot, therefore, be appealed to the Scottish Information Commissioner. There is, however, nothing to prevent an MSP submitting both an SPQ and an FOI request at the same time.
Can an elected member make a request on behalf of a constituent?
Yes, there is nothing to stop anyone making a request on behalf of another person. However, all information requests must contain the name of the person on whose behalf the request is made, in order for the request to be valid.
If we haven't answered your question here, or if you would like to discuss any aspect of FOI, contact us and we would be happy to help. Our enquiry line is open from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday - 01334 464610. Or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org